The Valcamonica in Lombardia holds the largest collection of rock art in the world and was Italy’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s number 94. Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri – Naquane is the name of the park (out of 8) we recommend for visitors to the area as an introduction to the engravings. Instituted in 1955, it was the first archaeological park in Italy. In a wooded area there are 104 incised rocks linked by walking trails and viewing platforms.
There are five marked routes covering 3 kilometers.
The park is near the city of Capo di Ponte, which also has a museum that explains the finds in English and Italian. A visit is free with a ticket to Naquane, which at the time of writing costs 6 euros. The park, like many parks in Italy, is closed on Monday.
Many of the images in these foothills concern hunting, often on horseback. Most of them are “pecked” out of gracier-polished sandstone polished by populations that lived between the Neolithic and the Iron age (4th to 1st millennium BC), with a concentration in the first age of metal, the copper age.
Clever covered walkways allow you to see the engravings relatively close up, but if you wish to photograph the best of them, a moderate telephoto is recommended. Many years ago you could take off your shoes and get up close and personal with the art, but today only guides and docents are allowed on the rocks to point out interesting features like the headdress on the “priest” above.
Copper Age Daggers and the Lunigiana Connection
Some of the best “portable” rocks with engravings are protected in the archaeological museum in Capo di Ponte. One of them features a series of typical daggers:
These are also found on standing statues called “stele” statues. The traditional territory of La Lunigiana in northern Tuscany, where this is being written, has several examples of stele statues in which the depicted folks are carrying this exact weapon.
Here’s a map of where we know statues with these knives exist:
Notice that the area in the middle, the fertile Po river valley isn’t represented. We’re looking at a mountain hunting culture.
If you go to Pontremoli in the Lunigiana, you can visit Piagnaro Castle, which has been home to the Museum of the Lunigiana Stone Statues since 1975. Here are a couple of interesting statues, both from the same period, as you can tell from the stylistic similarity.
To Sum It Up
The remnants of European prehistoric cultures can make a fine point of exploration on your vacation. The kids visiting Naquane at the end of the school year were held spellbound by the ancient images explained by their guides when we visited.
Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri – Naquane Visitor Information – the Facebook page also has current prices.
The area can be visited as a day trip from the tranquil shores of our favorite Italian lake, Lago di Iseo. You can learn all about visiting from Martha’s Italy, using the button below.